• Everyone Talks About Living Their Best Life. How do You Actually do it?

    Living your dream life requires grappling with a lot of cold reality.

    What does the life of your dreams look like? Are you exploring the world and working from your laptop? Are you hanging out with celebrities at award shows? Are you at home spending time with your kids every day?

    It’s possible to engineer the lifestyle you want. You might not get every aspect of it, but don’t confuse having everything in life with having the lifestyle of your dreams. You don’t have to earn billions of dollars to have it. You don’t need to come from the right pedigree. (I know I didn’t.)

    However, for this life-engineering to work for you — you will need to put effort into the process. Understand this: It will likely take several years to accomplish the planning stage of these goals. What else will it take to engineer the lifestyle of your dreams? Here are some tips to get you started.

    1. Clarity.

    What is it that you actually want? You don’t need to construct a vision board, just be honest with yourself. How much money will it take until you feel accomplished? What experiences do you want to have? Write it down if it helps you put it into focus.

    Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California, conducted a study, and found that people who wrote down their goals on a regular basis were 42 percent more likely to achieve them.

    When envisioning what you want, don’t confuse lifestyle with assets. You can drive a Maserati every day without ever owning one-if that’s what you want. In other words, you can experience the lifestyle without the large price tag.

    2. Time and effort.

    There is this odd expectation that people can quit their jobs, launch a business and become overnight millionaires. Achieving anything extraordinary takes time.

    Building a business or becoming an industry expert can easily take seven to ten years. You will likely spend several years experiencing incremental changes and iterating on these changes before you have a quantum leap.

    Most successful people spend countless hours working and training to reach their goals. If you’re not willing to clock in the time, then you shouldn’t expect results.

    3. Network.

    A mantra that has been highly influential to my own lifestyle engineering is: “The quality of our lives is defined by the people we surround ourselves with and the conversations we have with them.”

    In order to create the lifestyle that you dream of, you need to surround yourself with positive people that push and encourage you. Research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler found that our network-friends, colleagues, and family-influence our life.

    Behaviors and emotions can be passed from person to person, even if it is a friend of a friend that you’ve never met. Your network has the power to influence everything from voting habits, obesity, divorce and even happiness, so choose your connections wisely.

    Connect with key people. If you’re an entrepreneur, you need to meet investors, potential clients and press years before you need their help. If your dream is to be a digital nomad and travel blogger, you need to develop connections with those in the industry to find out what separates the successful people from the wannabes.

    When it comes to success and career, it is important to also have a diverse network that is made up of both strong ties (loved ones) and weak ties (acquaintances). According to research by Mark Granovetter, people are 58 percent more likely to get a job through a weak tie.

    4. Continuous improvement.

    Psychology Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi studied what top achievers and successful people have in common. He found that most are able to enter a state of peak human performance, otherwise known as flow state.  Csikszentmihalyi claims that the key to happiness and success is flow, and to enter this flow state, you need to do something that is just outside of your skillset.

    If it is too difficult, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If it’s too easy, you’ll lose interest. Take on projects and work that you have the skills to handle, but that challenge you in new and exciting ways.

    Most importantly, be patient. You don’t need to fulfill your goals as quickly as possible. Instead, always have something that you are striving towards. Continual improvement is more realistic and rewarding than sudden success or stagnation.

    Designing your dream life takes patience, hard work and drive. You can expect to put in a significant amount of effort that yields little to no results in the beginning. However, don’t give up. Eventually, all your hard work will pay off.

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • The Most Powerful Brands in Franchising

    Here are the strongest brands in franchising for 2017, ranked.

    There are many ways to measure the strength of a franchise. How many units does it have? What are its financials? Its growth? How well does it support its franchisees? But this month, for the first time ever, Entrepreneur is zeroing in on a factor that’s challenging to measure, easily overlooked and yet critical to the health of any business: branding.

    We wanted to know: Which franchises have done the best job of building themselves up as beloved, recognizable, robust brands? We did this by analyzing factors such as social media followers, system size, number of years in business, number of years franchising and overall reputation — and looking at how they all combine to form lasting relationships with fans.

    Our list shows that great brands are a paradox. Longevity and consistency matter, but only if a brand also constantly evolves. A prime example is KFC, which tops our list. On the following pages, you can see how its recent “Re-Colonelization” efforts have paid off, and learn how other top franchise brands stay fresh while maintaining their already strong foundations.

    Please keep in mind that this list is not intended as a recommendation of any particular company. A vibrant brand is just one of many elements to consider when buying a franchise; it’s critical that you do due diligence before investing in any opportunity. Read the company’s legal documents, consult with an attorney and an accountant and talk to as many existing and former franchisees as you can.

    To learn who made the cut, check out our list of The Most Powerful Brands in Franchising.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • Success Requires Knowing What You Won’t Compromise

    Flexibility and tolerance are important but know what you won’t bend on is crucial.

    People always ask we: “What are the keys to success in life and business?”

    I could talk for hours on the subject — particularly about what’s worked for me. But, truth is, all successful people answer a bit differently. That’s why, when I meet people like Elizabeth Weil, a dedicated distance runner and one of the most successful women in the venture capital field, I ask them the same question. I want to learn from them.

    Exercise

    As a child, Weil watched her mother take up running and swimming as therapy for a divorce. She’d wake up before dawn to get in a good swim or run — every day, no matter what. Morning exercise was non-negotiable. “She was out the door every morning around 4, because she knew that time of day was not going to be compromised by work or family or anything else,” Weil says today. “She could always get her workout in.”

    Today, Weil treats her run with the same reverence—even with three kids (including infant twins) and an incredibly demanding career. “For me,” she says, “running is a non-negotiable. Every job, every vacation, every business trip, I have my running shoes and I make time for it. Usually I get up very early, like my mother, and I just get it done. I feed one baby, I feed the other baby, and then I get out the door.”

    This doesn’t mean that life doesn’t occasionally happen in unexpected ways. “Things do come up, but I still get my running in.”

    It probably helps that Weil surrounds herself with like-minded people. “My husband is also an ultra-runner,” she says. “We joke that if going out to brunch was a non-negotiable, our relationship probably wouldn’t work.”

    The “how-to” of Weil’s success.

    When I asked Weil to boil her success down to a few takeaways, she answers immediately, which tells me that I’m talking to a person with a clear and well-defined plan for success. With Weil, these four elements underlie everything else:

    1. Create time for non-negotiables. “Along with my daily run,” she says, “another non-negotiable is spending time with my family, which is a lot harder now that I have three kids instead of just one.”
    2. Work with people you like. “Great people empower you and make you a better person,” she says.
    3. Live and work in a great location. “Life is too short to be in a place where you can’t do the things you like to do,” she says.
    4. Have a personal advisory board. “Fill it with people from all aspects of your life—an old college professor, an old colleague, your best friend, just people who know you really well,” she says. “You can check in with them and use them as part of your gut check as you go through life.”

    Work with great people.

    Working with great people, in a great location, and carving out time for non-negotiables are also parts of my long-standing recipe for success. However, Weil’s fourth element—having a personal advisory board—is a new one for me, and I’m going to put that into practice.

    Be a “people” person.

    Weil also talks about the fact that success in business is about more than just working your butt off. Admittedly, you need to work really, really hard in the job you’ve got if you want people to respect you and give you better opportunities. But you also need to be a people person.

    “I learned this the hard way because I didn’t make time for people when I was at Twitter,” she says. “I was so busy with my job there that I didn’t make connections for my next job. I tell people now, ‘When you pop up for your next job, you’ll wish you had gotten to know more people.’

    You won’t get a job just by uploading your résumé.

    You almost never get a job by uploading your résumé to a blind website. Jobs come from people you know, word of mouth, so you need to be good at your job and to also foster relationships.”

    The simple truth is that very few women are high-level decision makers at venture capital firms. Weil is one of only a handful. But it doesn’t surprise me at all that she has made it to the top when so many others haven’t, because she learned how to be successful early on from her mom.

    A life, business, and parenting tool.

    Another thing I take away from my conversation with Weil: Our kids watch us and they learn from what we do. We owe them the extra effort. My kids watch me with my non-negotiables, which for me are health and wellness and with the effort I put into my business and family.

    My kids learn what it takes to succeed without me sitting them down and lecturing them. I live the lesson, and that is a pretty awesome parenting tool.

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • 5 Powerful Ways to Become Your Best Self

    The biggest obstacles facing every entrepreneur are within.

    You know you are capable of great things. You know that under the right circumstances you could go far. You believe in yourself and what you can accomplish. You may have a picture of yourself in your mind’s eye: a vision of making your dreams a reality, of achieving the success you know could be yours.

    Now all you need to do is become that version of yourself. You need to become your best you. How do you begin transforming into the person you believe you should be?

    It’s time to stretch yourself; to grow and allow yourself to develop. Think of this as a journey of self-discovery. Here are five powerful tips to get you on the road to becoming the person you were meant to be.

    1. Try new things.

    You can’t let yourself become complacent. Fear of change is your enemy. Kick things up a notch by regularly trying something new and unexpected. Is there something you have always wanted to try, but never made time for? It could be something adventurous, like scuba diving or skydiving.

    Or maybe you’ve always wanted to tap into your artistic side and learn to paint with watercolors or take a photography class. Whatever it is, it’s important that you make time to explore a new activity, skill or craft.

    Surprise yourself by pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Doing so will give your ingenuity and innovative side a boost. Plus, you will have discovered something new about yourself — perhaps a hidden talent or an ability to learn something you didn’t think you were capable of.

    Along with trying new things, remember to give yourself time to have fun, relax and unplug from daily stress. Downtime gives your brain a chance to recharge and stay open to new experiences. Filling up all your time with work, tasks and obligations is a ticket to mental and physical fatigue. Push yourself away from your desk and remember to embrace life!

    2. Pursue your dreams.

    What is your ultimate dream; the thing you want more than anything? What is your true calling in life? These are some of the important questions to ask yourself in order to unlock who you are meant to be. Pursuing your dreams will give you determination to see your goals through, and will spark your creativity and inspiration. Plus, you will be doing something that makes you happy and holds your interest.

    For many, the hardest part is identifying the goals you want to pursue. You may need to explore different opportunities to see what sticks and what doesn’t. You may want to focus on a problem that you want to solve or an issue you’re enthusiastic about. Remember, your goals and ambitions can change and morph over time — and that’s okay!

    The only rule you should heed is that your dreams must come from within yourself — they shouldn’t be a reflection of what others want for you or what you think you should be doing. If you’re pursuing something solely for the sake of a good income, or to live up to someone else’s expectations, you will fall short.

    3. Sustain your motivation.

    We all have days when we wake up just not feeling it. Those days when our brains won’t get going — we’d rather do anything besides working. But despite being low on energy or inspiration, you have to find a way to keep moving forward. Remember, progress is incremental. You have to find ways to keep that fire in your belly; to keep nurturing that deep desire to achieve.

    Keep your motivation alight by taking time every day to reignite that internal flame. Read blogs and books or listen to TED talks or podcasts on topics that enthrall you. Write down your goals and post them where you will see them every day, so you are constantly reminded of your purpose.

    Keep a notebook and jot down ideas when something inspires you. When you are feeling blasé or need a boost, take some time to revisit your old ideas. They may inspire you once more and help you regain your momentum.

    4. Hone good habits.

    People are naturally creatures of habit. These can be good habits that we have worked hard to instill, or bad habits that suck away our determination and leave us short of our goals. Building solid, reliable habits will keep you taking baby steps in the right direction and sustain you through lackluster periods. Good habits are important to creating your best self because they keep you moving forward when you’d rather be slacking off.

    Developing a habit takes time and repetition, and should be done slowly. Trying to change too many things at once will feel overwhelming and daunting. The goal is to make incremental changes to your lifestyle that eventually become a way of life. Remember that even small habits can have a powerful cumulative effect.

    For instance, if you have a goal of writing a book, develop a habit of sitting down and writing every day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Similarly, if you want to get into better shape, start exercising for 20 minutes a day and work your way up.

    5. Focus on self-care.

    If you want to operate at peak performance, you must incorporate self-care into your daily routine. Are you eating nutritious meals and getting plenty of sleep? It’s going to be hard to feel your best if you are run ragged and are stuffing your belly with junk food. Are you making time to exercise and stretch?

    When we work up a sweat, it releases the endorphins that build up with stress. In many ways, your body is like a machine. It needs to be tuned and tended to, or something is going to give. If you don’t care for your body, you may start to feel burned out and you may be more apt to get sick or feel overwhelmed.

    Don’t forget that your mental well-being also needs to be nurtured. Take time to meditate and focus on the things you are grateful for. Taking time to replenish your mind and spirit is paramount to sustaining mental health and giving you a sense of well-being. And that is key to becoming and maintaining your best self, now and over the long haul.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • The Mistake Every Entrepreneur Makes When Creating Their Product or Service

    Innovation starts with a problem, not a solution.

    Entrepreneurs love to gush about how they identified a problem, created a solution and then disrupted a market.

    In my experience, innovation doesn’t necessarily work like that. Often, creating the solution uncovers the problem. In industries with a long, that’s-the-way-it’s-been-done attitude, this realization can make the difference between innovation flops and multimillion dollar successes.

    People usually recognize a problem retroactively, when an invention makes legacy technology seem insufficient. Horses were fine until Henry Ford made the Model T. Few people realized that CDs and the Walkman were clumsy solutions until iPods. Taxis were good enough until Uber.

    The more that people take something for granted, they less they can verbalize its problems. No one told the guys at YETI, “Hey, could you engineer a $350, bear-proof cooler that keeps ice solid for seven days?” Until YETI made their cooler, no one realized how bad other coolers were.

    Asking people to describe their problems with a product or market rarely works. Instead, you must build narratives of what people currently do. By analyzing those narratives, you can discover patterns of behavior, preference and mindset that signal unmet needs, which are the kernels of great problems.

    Let’s walk through the process.

    1. Observe your customers in a natural setting.

    It’s tempting to believe we can discover everything about customers from our computer screen. Data, we’re told, reveals all. Unfortunately, charts and graphs can’t pick up the information you absorb visually. When you watch people use your product — or a competitor’s product — in their normal environment, you notice meaningful patterns. At Trager Grills, we call this “in-habitat observation.”

    Observations reveal the workarounds people develop to make a deficient product perform better. Last year, when my colleagues visited our customers’ homes to watch them grill, they noticed that many Traeger users had built makeshift extenders to their hopper, the container that holds wood pellets (fuel for their grill). They built those to avoid running out of pellets during eight- to ten-hour smoke sessions. Had we only observed people using our grills at Traeger headquarters, we never would have identified that problem.

    Rather than creating an artificial environment for observations, do it in your customer’s natural habitat. Go to people’s homes, offices and neighborhoods, or wherever they use your product.

    2. Humanize your surveys.

    Thanks to the world’s data obsession, we tend to use survey questions that produce quantifiable answers. The results are clean but misleading. We don’t ask these sorts of questions in real life.

    For instance, how often do you ask your closest friends to rate something on a one to 10 scale? How often do you ask anyone to answer on a scale from “Most Likely” to “Least Likely,” “Very Good” to “Very Poor” or “Most Important” to “Least Important?” Those are unnatural ways to think about the world.

    Instead, ask open-ended questions. One of my favorites is, “When people ask you about your [insert product], what do you brag about?” That’s a powerful question, because the aspects that attract appreciation and disappointment tend to be related. If you love the way your car drives, anything that diminishes the driving experience will be that much more noticeable to you.

    3. Ask people to prioritize.

    It’s hard to rate a single feature or idea independent of alternatives. But, if you ask people to rank a list of features — and do this with multiple consumer segments — you see what customers value.

    Let’s use your smartphone to illustrate how this works. It’s hard to assign a value to screen size independent of other factors. But, how would you rank screen size, camera quality, voice control, speaker quality and data storage in order of importance? The question forces you to consider what you use most often, how it affects your experience with the smartphone and what needs improvement.

    Ranking features bears a strong resemblance to how we differentiate between products. For example, when buying a mountain bike (common here in Utah), you might test and compare three to five bikes. The thicker tires on the Santa Cruz bike are nice. The dropper seat post on this Trek would be useful. The Specialized is more expensive, but comes with lighter components.

    What matters most to me? Alternatives sharpen our ability to distinguish priorities. The more we understand our customers’ priorities, the better we can craft solutions.

    So, conduct in-habitat observations, ask open-ended questions and get some quantifiable data by asking survey respondents to rank options. Your future customers still don’t have a problem, and they won’t until you build their feedback into a new product that provides a solution to all the deficiencies they experience now.

    Some companies mistake refinement for innovation. Others look for a grand problem and never find it. But, if you lead customers to the solution, then they’ll realize they have a problem.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • 7 Ways To Grow Your Personal Brand in Less Than a Week

    How to get your name out there, starting today.

    If you want to promote your name and your company online, you have to begin by building your personal brand. You have to begin thinking of yourself and your name as a brand. If you start there, everything else is easy.

    How do I know? I’ve spent years building my own brand, and I’m going to show you how to do it.

    1. Do a little preliminary research.

    Before you can build a positive personal profile online for yourself, you need to know what is already out there about you. Did you write a mean op-ed in college that has now made it into Google’s cache? Do you have some unsavory photos floating out there in the world wide web?

    Set up Google alerts using your name. Try to clean up any negative press or posts. You may even want to consider changing your name slightly — such as by using your middle initial or dropping our your nickname to build your new profile. Get your name as clean and professional as possible before you begin building your brand online.

    2. Get a website.

    If you’re going to make a name for your brand online, you need a site where your audience can visit so they can learn more about you. So, get a personal website with an “About me” page. There are lots of tools that you can use and websites you can visit to help you build your own website. Some of them are free. Some are paid, but remember,  you get what you pay for.

    If you want your website to be dynamic and professional-looking, make sure that you allot enough time, effort (and even money) into it. Use high-resolution photos of yourself and keep your copy short and engaging.

    3. Think about your audience.

    Who are you trying to reach? This is called your target audience.

    If I’ve learned anything in my years of marketing, it’s that you need to define your audience early on. Are you trying to direct people to your personal website so they can learn something from you? What do you have to offer them?

    By answering these questions, you’ll be able to get a better picture of your audience, and this will give you direction on how you communicate with them on your website and on social media.

    4. Make friends with influential people online.

    Influencers are some of your best assets as you build your personal brand. Over the years, I’ve made friends with people online who have big audiences in my industry. By building these relationships, my influencers are more willing to share or retweet my social posts to their audiences.

    If you get free exposure to an audience that you are already trying to target, it’s a win-win for both parties. Try out this technique to see if it works for you. If you have the right influencers in your circle, you’ll get more traffic to your website and more engagement in your social posts.

    5. The more people you meet, the better.

    When you are building a personal brand, the people you know can help promote you. You can’t limit these relationships to online. Perhaps you will reach out to some influencers online, and that is perfectly acceptable. I do that all the time, and it is rewarding to see these friendships form. But, you also need to do everything you can to meet influencers in other ways. Go to local events related to your industry. Network at happy hours.

    Tell everyone what you do everywhere you go, from the waiter at your favorite restaurant to the people you sit beside at church. Expand your circles — and your personal brand — simply by being present with others.

    6. Be you and only you.

    I’m offering you this advice because I learned the hard way. When you are building a personal brand, you do want to put your best face forward. But you also don’t want to create an online presence that isn’t true to who you really are. Social users are savvy about honesty — and they can tell when marketers are not being vulnerable and genuine.

    So make sure you are putting forth an honest profile of who you are. When you do this, you’ll effortlessly build trust.

    7. Capture information.

    Once you have started building a relationship with your online audience, it will be time to collect some of their information. This will be useful in building an email list, for example, so you can communicate more directly with your target audience.

    You can test this using creative ways. For example, once you have proven yourself as an established, trusted voice who offers valuable content, you can ask your audience to sign up for your monthly newsletter. You can also create videos to share your brand story. Incentivize this by offering a free giveaway or running a contest to generate excitement around free prizes. Make it fun for your target audience to participate.

    It can feel overwhelming as you get start building your personal brand. But, it takes less than a week to try out these tips. It’s easy to try one new strategy, and it won’t be long before you have a great target audience listening to you and looking to you for advice. That’s what a personal brand is all about.

     

    Source: entrepreneur.com

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  • 6 Ways to Save Your Business Thousands Each Month

    Cutting costs is always quicker and easier than bringing in more revenue.

     

    For the majority of small business owners, cash is most definitely king. In hopes of increasing their bottom line, business owners often pay themselves much less than they deserve. The truth is, you have to spend money to make money. That being said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be saving wherever possible. While some tips work better than others, here are a few you can implement right away and start saving.

    1. Bootstrap as long as you can.

    In an era of endless technology and knowledge, it’s probably “been done before”. Just because you have competition, doesn’t mean you’re too late. There’s always room to find your niche and provide value where your competitors can’t. This is actually a great way to save yourself time and money.

    Whenever possible, look to work with larger companies and utilize their pre-existing technologies or infrastructure. You can either swap services or create a revenue-sharing agreement in exchange for access to their services. Ideally, they will allow you to white-label their products so you can create an original brand presence. This strategy will surely save you thousands and give your business time to build out your own products and or services.

    2. Optimize your purchasing power.

    Taking advantage of group buying and collective purchasing is a great way to save cash. By joining these groups you’ll have access to discounts and exclusive rates on office supplies, hardware, business travel, and much more.

    There are plenty of group buying services you can utilize based on your particular business needs. If you’re a non-profit, ThriveGPO provides a great group purchasing tool. If you’re a smart business owner, you’ll never buy alone.

    3. Barter your way to growth.

    If you’re looking to avoid cash outlays or unload slow-moving inventory you can always look to swap your products and services for others. Bartering with other companies can be time consuming, so if you’d rather not bargain with other companies directly you can always hire a commissioned barter broker. Otherwise, you can join a commercial barter club or exchange.

    The National Association of Trade Exchanges (NATE) is a registered clearing house for member exchanges nationwide. NATE essentially allows business owners to swap any product or service with anyone. When a sale is made, participants will often receive trade dollars for their goods and services. Trade dollars are brokered across cities nationwide under NATE.

    4. Get your business credit card rewards.

    If you haven’t done so already, it’s a good idea to apply for a business credit card. Since issuing banks assume business owners will spend more on a business card than a personal card, the rewards tend to be much more enticing. According to NerdWallet, here are the best small business credit cards of 2017:

    • Ink Business Cash Credit Card: Best for cash back
    • The Enhanced Business Platinum Card from American Express: Best for airport lounge access
    • Capital One Spark Miles for Business: Best for travel credit
    • Capital One Spark Classic for Business: Best for fair credit

    When you redeem your credit card rewards, you should also look to redeem in the form of a gift card. Companies often times offer gift cards that you can purchase with credit card rewards points. From a dollar per points perspective, you’ll get the most bang for your buck using this strategy. If you know you’re going to need to make some big purchases on office supplies, look to purchase a gift card for Ikea for example. Using these simple but effective strategies are a great way to save much needed cash especially on larger purchases.

    5. Free trials and consultations.

    There’s no better way to save money than to get a service for free. Instead of investing large amounts of money in enterprise software for your business, you can find much less expensive SaaS tools to meet your needs. These services often provide free trials, some as long as a month. After the trial period is over, they’ll typically offer tiered pricing that allows you to pay as you scale your business. Whether it’s a payments solution, CRM software, or simple accounting tools, you should always start with a free trial.

    Free consultations are very effective when seeking legal advice. Some business attorney’s charge as high as $600/hour and bill you to the second. Typically, a lawyer will give you about 30 minutes to even an hour of time as a consultation with the assumption you’ll choose them as your legal council. If you’re just looking to get a few questions answered, use a few attorney’s and get a few consultations. If you use this trick with three or four attorney’s you’ve just saved well over $1000 in legal fees.

    6. Review your expenses quarterly.

    Generally, you should be well aware of your expenses at all times. However, it’s best to do a full analysis quarterly to determine which expenses are necessary and which aren’t. Software that you used last quarter may be obsolete to your business now, so you’ll want to cancel that subscription. It’s easy to forget about all the various software and business tools you’ve signed up for over the years. It’s good to “trim the fat” each quarter so you can make every penny count.

    Regardless the size of your business it’s very important to stay on top of your finances and be frugal. Especially for smaller companies, your growth depends heavily on how your dollar is spent. If you implement these six strategies you can save your business thousands of dollars each month, so get out and build that business!

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    Call, text, email, or stop by our Los Angeles HQ today!
    Helvetia Holdings Group, LLC
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  • How Changes to the Way We Search Will Impact Businesses

    Changes in paths to consume content and experiences have emerged through technologies that offer a glimpse into what search may look like in the not-so-distant future.

    Today’s search engines are one of the primary paths to content experiences on the web. Shopping, research, directions and questions all pass through Google (and to a lesser extent Bing and Yahoo) as the entry point to solutions-seeking. Generally, the experience is the destination, and search engines have done a fine job of channeling users to the precise experience they’re looking for.

    What if, however, the end result could be reached earlier, circumventing today’s path? Changes in paths to consume content and experiences have emerged through technologies that offer a glimpse into what search may look like in the not-so-distant future.

    With Google Answers and Google My Business data dominating in search results, and providing data and answers to the user directly after they search, it eliminates the need for a user to click through to a website. While this might not be a delightful or engaging content experience, a very distinct need is being addressed through answers and data delivery right in the search engine results pages. Consequently, disruptive technology companies (Google being one of them) have plans to delight in other ways — almost certainly changing the search landscape as we know it.

    Human language search

    We’re currently witnessing the rise of voice search on our personal devices. The results are simple answers and data, similar to what we see displayed visually via Answers boxes and Google My Business. An interesting trend that has emerged since Siri and Cortana came on the scene is our “human language search” approach to the way we query. Speaking to our devices in the same way we speak to a barista or store clerk, this behavior has followed us back to our keyboards when we search on desktop and mobile. This suits search engines well, as we tend to be clearer with our intent and context when we search this way versus the old-school Boolean method.

    Anything more detailed than your device returning simple answers or asking for a next step, however, will require better familiarity between the user and the search engine. If we’re to expect the disappearance of the keyboard and rely on voice completely, machine learning and personalization will need to evolve. At the very least, we’ll be tethered to something that forces us to select the next step for the foreseeable future, even if we speak to them like other humans. With Google Lensvisual search, however, all bets may be off.

     

    Digital personal assistants

    Google Home, Amazon Alexa and others have taken search results a step further, neatly bypassing displayable data with answers, weather data and news being read aloud, versus a query, click or scroll. Commands to purchase can also be made through a digital personal assistant. What this means, however, is that chasing ownership of the top three results in search engines will be a thing of the past. When digital personal assistants are fed search results from the top spot, position one will be the only relevant position to own.

    Shopping may be a different story altogether if your device prioritizes results from its own ecosystem over rival search engines. Looking at how Amazon manages its Alexa devices today is just a preview into online shopping’s future.

    Everything in-platform

    As Google has evolved to meet the needs of users by limiting options and providing quick rewards directly in results pages, so have other complementary (and at times competitive) platforms.

    Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP don’t take users too far away from the originating platform source, enabling them to return to whatever they were doing before something caught their eye. Solutions like Facebook Store integrate products for an in-platform shopping experience, tightening the gap between product discovery and purchase, while directing users away from Google’s fairly limitless shopping mall of possibilities.

    WeChat takes it a few steps further. What began as a messaging platform in China has become a robust social, commerce and payments ecosystem without a U.S. equivalent. Taking a taxi to dinner via WeChat can include hailing a ride, route sharing, messaging a photo from the cab and splitting payments all in a single platform. Meanwhile, the U.S. industry is still too fractured for full social and payments integration, meaning customers have limited social sharing in their ride sharing apps. In Uber’s current state, it just doesn’t seem realistic to pull a menu attached to your restaurant destination like it is in WeChat.

    But, to think that before Uber and Lyft we would have Googled for a local taxi company, visited its website for a phone number and manually dialed to speak to a human is remarkable. And it’s paved the way for introducing something like WeChat in the U.S., or at the very least, for a powerhouse like Facebook to integrate social media, services and payments that limits the necessity for some types of search behavior in the future.

    Hyper-personalization

    If you’re interested in how organic search will be impacted next, look to other digital marketing channels for the blueprint. In paid media, we see search and display ads based on demographics and browsing history. Programmatic display, beacon technology and more advanced targeting gets even creepier. In organic search today, we see results based on location and past purchases we may have made. Google’s search algorithm has brought us what the engines consider the most relevant results, but those results are rarely individualized in any meaningful way.

    Moving past simple targeting, machine learning and platform integration can deliver results to users on an absolute personal level. Imagine data from walled-in ecosystems like Facebook and a news site on the open web feeding data into Google’s organic algorithm to address our queries personally. Marketers are using beacon technology to know we were just at Starbucks and location data to know it’s about to rain in order to serve up the perfect ad creative. It’s only a matter of time before similar collections of intelligence can answer the “what should I do today in New York?” query with a relevant result that won’t have you over-caffeinated and caught in the rain.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

    Call, text, email, or stop by our Los Angeles HQ today!
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  • Why Personal Branding Must Be Your First Focus

    Consumers won’t buy from your company until they trust you.

    In today’s competitive business environment, it may seem nearly impossible to stand out. But many people have managed to step out of the shadows by opting for a strategy primarily used by businesses themselves — branding.

    Personal branding is the key to giving yourself an advantage both in your current job and when you search for a new one.

    Your personal brand is something that follows you around whether you want it to or not. It’s something that exists even if you don’t bother to cultivate it. From job to job, the way you present yourself professionally matters, and it is instrumental in establishing yourself as a valuable leader.

    What exactly is personal branding?

    Understanding the ins and outs of personal branding is obviously the first step in the right direction. The concept can be simply defined as the method of marketing yourself and your career to improve relationships with managers, colleagues and clients. Turning yourself into a brand helps you manage how you’re viewed and how much trust you can establish in your career. It involves creating a distinct voice, image and ethical standard.

    But, it’s also something that takes consistent work over the course of your career. That is to say, you can’t write a particularly excellent blog post one time and expect that to carry you through the rest of your life. On top of that, just generally having a social media presence is no longer enough to qualify as a personal brand.

    Building trust with those around you.

    Trust isn’t something that flourishes naturally on a wide scale. It’s something you have to cultivate, and the best way to do that is with a unique personal brand. When it comes to who consumers trust the most, it’s almost always individuals. Corporate branding may technically be more visible, but it’s almost universally seen as less trustworthy. In fact, brand messages are shared 24 times more often if the originator of the message is an individual.

    Clearly, you can use your personal brand to build trust as long as that brand reads as authentic and sincere.

    Finding a niche.

    One of the most valuable facets of a personal brand is discovering your niche. It can be difficult to stand out if your area of expertise is simply “marketing.” If you try something more specific, you can magnify yourself and your skills. Although your target demographic may be more narrow, you are more likely to connect with that audience. I have spent most of my career focusing on Wikipedia. May not sound exciting, but it has helped me stand out as a go-to person for those in need of a Wikipedia page.

    Becoming a thought leader.

    While becoming a thought leader might not be at the top of everyone’s to-do list, it can happen if you establish yourself in a niche. Whether you are writing articles or participating in interviews, a portfolio of helpful information and advice will propel you to thought leader status. Again, this is all about building trust with valuable and actionable guidance.

    Conclusion.

    In order to become a respected intellectual in your field, you have to know what you’re talking about, offer genuine counsel and really mean what you say. Done well, personal branding can walk side-by-side with personal development and career success.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

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  • 3 Things You Need to Do to Grow Your Business Naturally

    Stop focusing on growing your company and start improving your offerings.

    Building a successful business requires laser focus. Every entrepreneur wants to grow his or her business, but it’s that focus on growth that ultimately stands in the way of the desired growth.

    Confused?

    The point is that you can focus on growth all you want, but unless you find a way to provide more value, your growth will be slow. Take Amazon for example. They are constantly finding ways to provide more value to their customers — from free same-day shipping to testing 30-minute drone-delivery — and that sets them apart from other e-commerce retail options.

    The same value-focused approach can be applied to any business.

    I’m constantly networking, and since I spend a considerable amount of time in Oklahoma City these days, I have met several local business owners, one being Grover Walker, CEO of SaonMedia, a digital marketing, promotion and distribution company in the music industry.

    While speaking with Walker, we discussed business growth and the importance of providing value. Below are three value components that can grow your business naturally across every industry.

    1. Helping your customers become more successful and happier.

    “Our artists love creating music and performing, and our goal is to help them succeed and ‘make it’ in this extremely competitive industry. With each client comes a different sound and unique personality, which we develop the marketing campaign around. Simply helping our artists do what they love has resulted in countless referrals and further business relationships within the music industry,” explained Walker.

    This approach applies to everything — from business-to-business online marketing tools to consumer health and beauty products.

    An online invoicing and accounting tool helps a business be more efficient, allowing them to dedicate more time and focus on other areas of their business — helping them to become more successful. A consumer product like my teeth-whitening brand grows exponentially simply by making customers happy — in this case, by helping them whiten their teeth.

    2. Being more innovative than your competition.

    SaonMedia’s current focus is digital distribution to major digital and mobile retailers, and in the early years of development, they were limited to just music digital distribution to a select few digital retailers. However, after securing a deal with distribution giant The Orchard, they emerged as a leading distributor in the music industry.

    “It took careful research and hands-on experience to realize that distribution alone was not enough for our artists,” explained Walker. “We realized that content marketing and promotion created valuable engagement between our music artists and their fans. We then developed a platform for artists to market and promote their music in a more efficient manner.”

    Now, SaonMedia offers their marketing platform, consisting of music and video placement, content creation and radio play, to all independent artists. This approach allows music artists to deal with one company rather than several.

    3. Giving your customers something your competitors can’t.

    Walker’s company introduced this new marketing platform for independent music artists, which was something that his competition wasn’t focused on, explaining, “We believe that a direct-to-consumer strategy is an important key to success in the digital marketplace, so we made it a priority to offer this to our artists to help them succeed in a very competitive industry.”

    This point circles back to the beginning, where I used Amazon’s 30-minute drone-delivery service as an example. They were the first to come to market with this, but one would be foolish to think that other e-commerce giants won’t follow behind.

    That doesn’t make Amazon’s efforts any less meaningful — natural growth is about constantly finding new ways to provide extra value that isn’t found elsewhere. “If you are struggling to come up with ideas, poll your customers. Simply asking them how you can deliver more value will often provide you with the feedback required,” advises Marc Anidjar, attorney and co-founder of Anidjar & Levine, P.A.

    Source: www.entrepreneur.com

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